A Round of Better Bikes . . .

Say hello to my in-laws. They're a great family and we have some good times doing outdoor stuff. But they've been lacking in the bike department, most evident at family gatherings that include a fun ride.

Old, unsafe, too small: these are the issues that have fueled their bike frustration. Especially my nephew, who rides the most, is the tallest and had the most ill fitting bike of all. The whole family needed to graduate to good fitting, practical and easy to ride bikes.

The journey to better bikes started about a year ago . . .

Better Bike 1: Nephew's 1993 Specialized Rock Hopper Comp

Elders Bike

My nephew was riding a "way too small" department store bike. Bike nerds out there will agree that these are cheaply made bikes with flimsy components and meager adjustments that make a proper fit somewhat of a lucky find.

If it comes down to no bike vs a Walmart bike, then Ok, it beats not having a bike at all. But at some point, especially after you've outgrown a bike like this, it's time to move on to a proper set of wheels.

At 14 yrs old, and 6'2" it's hard to find a proper sized bike for this kid anywhere, especially at the sporting goods section of a department store.

Uncle Doug had to step in. I just couldn't stand the sight of him trying to make that little undersized bike work. His birthday was coming, so I made an executive decision. Which is a "husband code" that basically means I ok'd my idea with my wife before hand. He was getting a better bike for his birthday, so he could have a good set of wheels to ride to school.

Craigslist to the rescue. I found a good candidate in a mid 90's era Specialized Rock Hopper Comp in "Gunmetal Green". At $100 it fit all of the criteria: XL sized frame, all original components in excellent condition, easily modified, good mounting points, light weight steel and a good price.

After adding some good grips, a rear rack, a rear basket, some super wide bomb proof street tires along with a thorough tune up, the bike was a hit. He was so excited.

But he wasn't done growing and a year later, the original racing style cockpit was too forward leaning for his new height. Remember this was the "Comp" version, thus the racing geometry.

So, just recently he and I had a fun afternoon of replacing the stem, handlebars, shifter cables and brake cables. The new stem is aggressively upright. The new handle bars have a big rise and sweep way back towards the rider. Along with raising the seat to make them even with the new front end, the new upright position is perfect. No more hunching, neck or shoulder straining.

At his current height, he could fit into an XXL frame size but those are really hard to find. With some smart upgrades, the bike is a keeper and the fit is excellent!

Better Bike 2: Mom's 2009 Trek 4300 (Aka Cloudie)

Mom's Bike

It was nice to have the department store bike replaced for a real bike. You'd think that would be the end of the story.  But Mom started using it for family rides and trips to the market.  Which is both awesome and, well, horrifying.  She was excited to get some ride time with her son, get some exercise, and even do some errands. But on that same bike? Oh no.

In my own line up of bikes, I was going through a refresh of sorts. I was having a new commuting/touring bike built since my original was totaled in a crash. Meanwhile I needed something to get me to work.

I took an extra Trek mountain bike in my shop and did a mild commuter build up, including WTB flat resistant tires, fenders, French style riser handle bars and rear rack.

The dark gray & black colors reminded me of storm clouds just before the rain falls. I dubbed thee "Cloudie". I rode it to the office for about 4 months.

Once my new ride was delivered from Cycle Monkey in Oakland, ( https://www.cyclemonkey.com ) Cloudie was now available to be "Craigs Listed", but realized that this was exactly the bike sister-in-law needed for her new found bike lifestyle. I knew that we were close in height, so the fit would not be too far off.

After an hour of short test rides, seat adjusting and a general lesson in shifting, I parted ways with Cloudie to see it start a new life as a Trader Joe's grocery-getter, errand-runner and all round no-car-needed neighborhood cruiser. So far, she and Cloudie are very happy together.

Better Bike 3: Dad's 2016 JAMIS Allegro

Dad's Bike

At 6'1", brother-in-law was riding an ancient (and dare I say dilapidated) Scott mountain bike from the mid 1980's. Back in the day, this was actually not a bad frame, but like that one friend we all have, the 80's did not treat this bike well.

The small size was (again) the biggest problem. Where he really should be riding a 22" frame, the Scott was a 17". Ouch.

Since a serious weekend ride was coming up, it was time to commit to a new set of wheels. We headed over to Around the Cycle bike shop in Pasadena. ( https://aroundthecycle.com/ )

This is not your typical bike shop. Owner Ryan Weeks has done a nice job of mixing new bikes, nicely rebuilt used & classic bikes in space that is mellow and non intimidating to new cyclists. But hard core commuters or touring types would feel at home with the nicely curated selection of practical bikes accessories, tires and saddles.

Ryan spent a good chunk of his Saturday morning with us. With a very tight budget he came up with a new JAMIS Allegro in a size 23" ( http://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/allegro.html ). For the uninitiated, that is a whopping huge frame.

An added bonus was that Ryan accepts used bikes and bike part "trade in's" if it's feasible for him to do so. Of the 3 old funky bikes that Dad brought from home (and some parts that I chipped in), a new bike was had with new rear rack at no extra cost. He also provided a 2 used water bottle cages. A most pleasant bike shop experience.

As a bit of a snooty bike person, I am impressed with the many features of this inexpensive ride. The fork alone has several mounting points for multiple rack options and fenders. Mounting points on the rear as well. The frame has good clearance for fat tires. And the huge 23" frame fits Dad perfectly.

With this bike, the new round of better bikes for the family is complete! My niece is still in the "hello kitty" bike stage, so at some point, she'll be ready to graduate as well.


Bikes are such a simple joy. But the wrong seat, fit or frame shape can sour the experience for anyone giving biking a serious try.

With these corrections, it's exciting to see a sweet burst of happiness that better bikes have on the in-laws. When's the next CicLAvia?? They will be ready, and I look forward to riding with them!


Comments (4) -

Dave Menapace
Dave Menapace 7/7/2017 8:50:40 AM

Doug!  I love reading your blog.  It's a nice escape to the day.  Glad to hear that everybody got some needed upgrades!  Not sure that I've shared with you yet, but Kim and I have had some upgrades as well!

For around town:  
A 'his' and 'hers' set of rock stompers, which we've converted into comfortable commuter bikes.  They are perfect for riding down the rail trail down to our favorite (1) coffee shop, (2) bar, and (3) butcher.  We inherited these bikes from my parents (mid-90's era), tuned them up, replaced the tires, and they have been rock solid!

For the Cape:  
A lovely set of beach cruisers, fully equip with large baskets, beer holders, speaker mounts, and cell phone holding console (these really enhance the cape cod experience) Smile

For Fitness:  
Kim purchased a Trek road bike (not sure the model), and I purchased a specialized Allez Elite.  These have been a blast taking on 20+ mile rides around the farm lands of Holliston, Hopkinton, Dover, and Sherborn.  

You sure would be proud!

Hope all has been well my friend!


Hey Dave great bike update!

So I'm rereading your comment you've got what, six bikes now?

Oh man you're on the verge of having a problem;)

One which I'm sure you'll enjoy just like I do haha !

Happy riding to you and Kim!


Enjoyed the read! We are forever indebted to you Uncle Dougy!  The bike upgrades have already made a big impact on our lives. Chris has been happily riding the Jamis to work each day. Elder's Rockhopper fits him perfectly now and has been riding everywhere. For myself, Cloudie is my new best friend! With my new grocery bag panniers on the back, I am the Studio City bike errand maven!
Just yesterday we took the bikes down to Santa Monica and rode the path most of the day...it was awesome! Love and thanks!  LizzySmile


Hey Lizzy, my pleasure!  It's great to see the transformation taking place for the whole family.

May the road rise up to meet you, the wind be at your back & errands be exciting once again.

Ride On!

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